Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Back from Hiatus

Sorry for the long delay between posts. We lost internet connection over the weekend and I haven't had time to update since we got it back. But let me fill you in on what I've been up to since I last posted:

Wednesday was my cooking class, and we made delicious food. I learned that there is no such thing as traditional Italian cuisine, because Italy is split into many regions that are geographically separated and spread out and have developed their own type of food. So the next time you go to an "authentic Italian" restaurant...

We learned how to make food from Northern Italy (Piedmont, Liguria, Valle d'Aosta) and our meal consisted of fresh pasta with walnut sauce and crepes suzette. Fact: Crepes were actually invented by Italians, and the recipe was stolen by the French and developed into national French cuisine. The French apparently steal everything that belongs to the Italians, and they are very bitter about it. Crepes, the Mona Lisa....

I didn't get any pictures of our first meal, but it was successful. There was nothing particularly special or difficult about these recipes, but simple does not mean bad. Not at all.

On Friday, a bunch of us went to the Boboli gardens and Pitti Palace. They were quite stunning. The gardens went on for acres, with huge trees and sloped paths. The gardens are situated in a series of hills, so at times, you are at the top of the world, able to see all around you, and during others, you're sunk deep in a valley, surrounded by towering trees and the paths seem to stretch to the sky and it sort of feels like you're in Middle Earth and a hobbit is going to jump out from behind the next tree.

I was getting a little tired of the gardens, and we wandered toward what we thought was the exit. We came upon this hilarious statue of a large man riding a turtle, and stopped to photograph it.

And then, hidden away and just barely in view, was this incredible grotto. We went over and marveled at the intricate detail of the place. We had entered the Grotto di Buontalenti, which houses Michelangelo's Prisoners. Those statues were originally intended for Pope Julius II's tomb, but the design changed early on and the statues were unwanted. Of course, the statues we saw there were copies (as the originals are in the Academia), but they were still impressive. The other statues were made with stalactites and seemed to be melting from the wall and they were incredibly detailed and intricate and I was surprised I'd never seen them before in art history books, because they were some of my favorite statues I've seen. Ever. They are from the Mannerist period, which was short-lived and not incredibly influential, but those statues have such power and emotion that I think I might have to reevaluate that period.

There were also two other famous statues inside: Giambologna's Bathing Venus and Paris and Helen by Vincenzo de Rossi.

Inside the Palace, we walked through only one of the many museums. Being in a group of girls, we had to visit the fashion gallery. I snuck a few photos before the guards yelled at me, but I was mostly interested in the architecture of the palace itself, because the gilded walls and painted ceilings and draperies and embellished wall carvings were all so gorgeous.

Saturday was game day! We attended a soccer game [soccer is called calcio (kal-chee-oh), not futbol, in Italian]. Fiorentina (Florence's team) v. Lazio! It was a great game, although we lost 2-1. Our goalie was not very good, and our defense was really lazy, but our forwards managed to keep the ball at the other goal for most of the game. The other team had some amazing plays, though, and overall it was a great game to watch. At once point, the spectators lit a smoke bomb and sparklers in the stands, and there were guards around the visiting team's section. The guards were necessary, because our fans tried to swarm the Lazio fans and fight several times. So when there wasn't much of a show on the field, there was plenty to watch in the stands. The only thing I regret was that we didn't know all the Italian cheers, so we could only clap along with the creative and interesting chants that the rest of the fans bellowed throughout the stadium. And another strange point was that the field was square.

On Sunday, our house made brunch together. We made crepes with Nutella and bananas(thanks to my previous cooking class and new recipe) and omlettes and bacon. The bacon was so thick and fresh and crispy, and I was surprised that the bacon was so incredibly superior to the packaged stuff in America. I am loving the fact that everything is fresh and unprocessed and natural here, because it really makes a difference in how the meal turns out. I never really enjoyed cooking that much in America, but here, I'm basically the resident cook in our apartment and I feel like I'm making things all the time, and everything is so delicious. For dinner, we made burgers and fries, because we were getting sick of pasta for every meal. That meal was incredible. We put caramelized onions and grilled apples on the juicy and pink burgers and fried the potatoes in olive oil. Delicious.

And then today, I had my cooking class again and we made the best osso bucco I've ever had. We also made risotto with saffron and pastries that were incredible, although I forget what they were called. The pastries were so light and flaky and gently sweet, and I couldn't believe that I had made that myself. It wasn't the prettiest job (the picture is from another batch, crafted by the instructor), but the presentation didn't affect the taste in any way.

After class, I made a Nutella cake with mocha buttercream frosting, because tomorrow is Veronika's birthday and we aren't able to celebrate it until next Monday. So we did a small pre-celebration tonight. The cake was a little undercooked, but it was also delicious, and I'm glad it turned out well, because I really had to improvise with some of the ingredients and techniques, since our kitchen is lacking in a lot of departments. But it was a success, and I look forward to making another delicious cake in a few days.

This weekend I'm going to Interlaken, Switzerland. I will be canyoning, and I'm so excited. I will write all about it when I get back on Sunday, but until then, watch this video so you know what I'll be up to:

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